At the northern edge of the Pacific Ocean are the Aleutian Islands. They sparkle like jewels under mist in a slate-colored sea. Shallow and turbulent is the ocean that surrounds them. The Aleutian archipelago arches down toward the southwest from the Alaskan mainland like a strand of black basalt beads adorned with low, deep-green plants and tall white waterfalls. Far to the south are their counterparts, the Hawaiian Islands. They spread to the northwest from the middle of the Pacific Plate, where a rip in the earth’s crust spews lava from the core, making land. Far from any mainland, Hawai’i is surrounded by some of the deepest waters on the planet. A chain of ancient, underwater seamounts complete Hawai’i’s long, arched archipelago, with the oldest Hawaiian seamount not far from the most distant Aleutian island. Hawai’i, too, is crafted of black, green, and white. It is the yin to Alaska’s yang.
We visited the Big Island of Hawai’i in April 2021. Vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we’d become adept at masking for over a year, and we’ve always been naturals at social distancing, so we didn’t pose much of a risk to ourselves or others. The State of Hawai’i was taking public health precautions more seriously than anyone at home, requiring a negative COVID-19 test before we even boarded the plane. So we navigated the constantly changing web of state requirements and planned our visit with a confusing array of online options and outdated websites. It was challenging to find a State-of-Hawai’i-approved lab in Western Colorado that could promise results back in time, but it all worked out, and we were soon off to the land of rainbows and volcanic glow.